Largest set of ancient bells listed on China’s top archives heritage list
Published: Mar 15, 2023 12:41 AM
The Zenghouyi Bells Photo: VCG

The Zenghouyi Bells Photo: VCG

The Zenghouyi Bells, the world's largest set of musical bronze bells, have recently been listed as part of the fifth batch of items inscribed to the Chinese Archives and Documents Heritage List by the National Archives Administration of China. 

Also known as the Bianzhong of Marquis Yi of Zeng, the set of musical instruments from China's Warring States Period (475BC-221BC) was discovered in the Tomb of ­Marquis Yi of Zeng in Suizhou, Central China's Hubei ­Province. 

The set of bells, known as bianzhong, date back to 2,400 years ago and consist of 65 individual bells. They have been divided into eight groups that hang from a trapezoid-shaped copper wooden rack. The biggest individual bell is 152.3 centimeters in height and weighs 203.6 kilograms. 

Luo Xinmin, an expert on China's Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC), told the Global Times that the bells were quite a "sensation" when they were found in 1978 as such a well-preserved set had never been discovered before.  

The bells were so well preserved that they can still be played today. Luo told the Global Times that they are a "living musical sample" revealing ancient China's development in music. 

The 3,755 engraved characters on bells reveal how they were played, Fang Qin, the director of the Hubei Provincial Museum, said, noting that the relic was a "good contribution to world music theory." 

"With such intricate details, the Zenghouyi Bells also reflect the development of bronze casting in ancient China," Luo noted. 

Including the Zenghouyi Bells, a total of 55 archival documents were also included in the fifth batch. Among them, the Qianlong Beijing Map created in 1750 is a cartographic map that shows a complete view of the capital city during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). 

The Chinese Archives and Documents Heritage List was first started in 2000. A total of 198 archival items have been inscribed to the list. 

"Such an archive helps us to instantly trace and manage the country's cultural and historical heritage," noted Luo.